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After the Raid: FBI and CIA support Kuwait on Bush plot

WHEN Kuwait said it had smashed a plot to kill the former US president George Bush, few took it seriously. Its credibility was low after it had claimed some Iraqi fishermen were an invasion force. The amateurism of the would-be assassins seemed to argue against the involvement of Iraqi intelligence. And why had Baghdad done so little to conceal its role, given that the US would inevitably retaliate against it if the plot was discovered?

But evidence gathered by the FBI and CIA shows the plan to kill Mr Bush occurred very much as the Kuwaitis said it had. The same person or persons had assembled the bomb inside the Toyota Land-Cruiser as had built previous Iraqi bombs.

The alleged ringleaders were Raad al-Assadi and Wali Abdel- hadi al-Ghazali, both Iraqis and an unlikely pair of assassins. Mr Assadi, 33, is a cafe owner from Basra but, according to his evidence at the trial, which continued yesterday, his real profession was smuggling. He was recruited on 9 April as a guide for the mission but said he did not know the target was Mr Bush. He said his main interest in going with Mr Ghazali to Kuwait was to smuggle five cases of Scotch whisky provided by Iraqi intelligence.

Mr Ghazali, 36, was a nurse from Basra who said he originally tried to dissuade Iraqi intelligence from recruiting him because his wife was in hospital and he had five children. 'They told me no Iraqi could turn down such an honourable mission.' He was given dollars 1,300 (pounds 880) and a pistol.

In Basra on 12 April, Iraqi intelligence officials gave Mr Assadi and Mr Ghazali forged United Arab Emirates passports and the Toyota, which had explosives in the door panels. The FBI said the circuitry, plastic explosives and remote-controlled detonator were all of a pattern seen before in Iraqi bombs. Mr Ghazali also received a belt with explosives which, if all else failed, he was to use as a suicide bomb to kill Mr Bush.

But the Toyota was expected to be the main instrument for the assassination. Mr Ghazali, Mr Assadi and others were to drive it to Kuwait University, where Mr Bush was to appear with the Emir of Kuwait in honour of his leadership in the Gulf war. They would park near the motorcade route; Mr Ghazali would move 400 metres from the Toyota and blow it up by remote control. If the detonator failed, the bomb would be exploded by a timing device.

The plot began to unravel the moment the would-be assassins crossed the border. Mr Ghazali said he was so frightened that 'I began praying as soon as I reached Kuwait'. Mr Assadi was more confident in court but said that as soon as he crossed the border, he buried 10 sticks of dynamite given him by Iraqi intelligence. They hid the Toyota in a sheep-pen but the police, who said they learnt about the plot in March, surrounded it.

Mr Ghazali and three others stole a car to escape and when it broke down they started to walk across the desert, where they were seen and arrested.

(Photograph omitted)